Two Coronavirus Strategies: Stick to What You Know vs. Seize the Opportunity

I was talking to my entrepreneur friend and asked him what his business strategy was amidst the economic downturn and all of the uncertainty.

“Working in a full-time job! Startups are too risky.”

He’s got a full house of kids and animals to support. Now’s not the time to try to be making bets and burning money to grow a startup. He’s put both of his early-stage startups on hold and secured a one year contract for a company that’s paying him $5,000 a month.

He’s conserving cash and reducing costs. He bought gold. He’s spending extra down time he has to finish up taxes and watch Game of Thrones.

Another friend of mine is taking a different approach. He’s a project manager for an IT firm but is hungry to sink his teeth into some opportunities. He wants to start a new business, so he called me and we brainstormed ideas.

When I asked him about his philosophy he said, “When there’s blood in the water, it’s time to go swimming.”

What he means is that when there’s panic, there’s also often opportunity that people are too afraid to take advantage of. Like when the stock market drops 30% in a few days. Most people are selling. But unless it’s the literal end of the world, stocks will rebound and go back up eventually. So my friend scooped up some cheap stock.

These two friends are in two separate camps.

Camp A says “stick to what you know” and “don’t take too many risks.”

If you’re in this camp, here are five actions you can take:

  1. This is the wrong time to transition to a different career. Stick to your area of expertise and look at boosting your existing skills. Take classes on Coursera, Skillshare, Udemy and Masterclass. (google ‘what certification should I get?’ followed by your job or dream job)
  2. Aim to secure a cash runway of 12-24 months in savings. Don’t spend/invest until you’ve got this cushion. (more tips here)
  3. Cancel subscriptions you don’t need and reduce other unnecessary costs. (here’s how)
  4. Call your landlord and ask them to temporarily reduce your rent. (here’s how)
  5. Prepare a bug-out bag of necessary supplies. We don’t know how long this will last. (here’s how)

Camp B says “Seize the opportunity” and “make strategic investments.” If you’re in this camp, here are five actions you can take:

  1. Revamp your resume and work your network like crazy (talk to a coach and get feedback on your CV here).
  2. For full-time or freelancing gigs, reach out to hiring managers directly on LinkedIn. (here’s how) Check Candor.co to see who’s hiring and firing.
  3. Go where the demand is and focus on building skills in industries that are booming now. Put your ego aside.
  4. For business owners, start a new product, pivot, and aid with the COVID-19 relief efforts. Airbnb is housing 100,000 healthcare workers. Dyson created a ventilator. What you do now will have a long-lasting impact on your brand. (19 ideas here)
  5. Identify bargains (discounted SaaS apps here) that can grow your business, and diversify investments that will give you massive upside once markets recover (stock/crypto/real estate).

Find the intersection between BOTH camps

You’ll feel drawn to one camp, depending on your risk level. If you have a family, bills to pay and sky-high in credit card debt, then you’re more risk-averse (rightfully so). But if you have sufficient runway and more of a financial cushion, you have room to make calculated bets.

You can do a little bit of both. You can double down on your skills/investments/career, AND you can make small high-risk, high-reward bets on the side.

Approach this in a step-like fashion. After you feel that you’re in a more secure place (financially/mentally/getting used to remote work and moving up the five levels), take one step forward. Spend time brushing up your resume, investing in a new skill, or making a small bet. Research growing industries or choose one online course to take. Go choose one action NOW! Write it down on your calendar or the bullet journal.

When you feel nervous or uncertain, there’s an underlying cause: too much risk. This can lead to sleepless nights and bad decision-making (‘do I have enough cash to survive? Is my job at risk? How do I deal with everything?). If you find yourself here then take some risk off the table. Focus on fewer things, make fewer commitments, and take a step back.

It will never feel perfect. There’s always going to be some inherent risk in our decisions. Just keep making small steps and never bet the house!

Lastly, remember that pandemics, natural disasters, wars…All of these are bound to happen again in the near or not-so distant future. You can’t focus on everything, so if you don’t seize the ‘perfect’ opportunity to make money or change your career this time, you’ll have learned lessons for next time — which could be sooner than you think. Make sure you write down your lessons-learned in a journal.


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